Scotch Malt Whisky Society SMWS Independent Bottler

Scotch Malt Whisky Society Independent Bottler

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a Independent Bottler members only club who sells its whiskies exclusively to its members.

The SMWS was founded by Philip 'Pip' Hills, who whilst on holiday in the 1970's in the Highlands of Scotland was surprised by a whisky a farmer sold him near Glenfarclas. He had never tasted anything like it and wanted to be able to sample such whiskies straight from the cask more often.

Hills was so affected by what he had tasted that, in 1978, he persuaded several acquaintances to share in the cost of a cask from the Glenfarclas distillery. Over time, the group of friends expanded to become a small syndicate and more casks were purchased, bottled and distributed to subscribing members.

Coinciding with the decision to open membership to the wider public in 1983, the Society purchased its first property, The Vaults, in Leith; a building, whose vaulted wine cellars reputedly stretch back to the 12th century.

The Society created a set of members’ rooms there.

In 1996, the Society launched a share scheme for its members, the proceeds from which were invested in the purchase of a London venue.

2004 saw the Society purchase a second venue in Edinburgh – a Georgian townhouse on Queen Street. In the same year, the Society was acquired by Glenmorangie PLC.

To mark the 25th anniversary of its foundation, the Society redesigned its bottles, to include more information and a full tasting note on the front of the bottle.

Today the Scotch Malt Whisky Society runs three private members’ rooms in the UK, where whiskies are sold by the bottle or for consumption on the premises by the dram. These are located at The Vaults, Leith; 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh; and 19 Greville Street, London.

Casks are only acquired by the Society after approval by an appointed ‘Tasting Panel’, comprising Society representatives, those directly involved in the distilling industry and various other suitably qualified parties.

The Tasting Panel also gives each bottling a whimsical set of tasting notes which provide an indication of what flavours and textures the drinker can expect. Each bottle is also given a quirky and descriptive name - such as ‘Fragrant smoke from an Islay hearth’ or ‘Wild West cowgirl dressed in leather’.

The SMWS policy of not revealing the origin of the whisky in the bottle continues to this day as they never name the distillery of origin on the label but give each distillery a code number and allow members to try guess from the descriptions.

The Society has also bottled single casks from seven grain whisky distilleries, identified by the prefix ‘G’ in the cask number. Of course the SMWS bottling codes are well known today, follow the link below for a list

Over the years the SMWS has bottled over 100 distilleries and the society has expanded considerably and now has branches in several international locations including Australia, Austria, Benelux, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the U.S.A

For more info and pricing to join The SMWS and to view the latest SMWS bottlings visit their website here

Scotch Malt Whisky Society Bottling Codes

SMWS malt and grain whisky distillery bottling codes:


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